How To Get People To Pay For Content


It’s the most common question I get in my travels: Will people ever pay for content again? See what I had to say about that in this three-minute clip from a recent interview.

James McQuivey is an analyst at Forrester Research, where he serves Consumer Product Strategy professionals. James blogs here.

This article originally appeared in Forrester Research.



Sorry, Palmer. You say with capitalised certainty that journalists salaries are NOT paid for by circulation revenue. Well that’s just NOT the case. The idea that circulation revenue on magazines, for example, is just pin money to offset costs that are eliminated by digital distribution is not true. Circulation revenues can contribute 50% or even more of title revenue, and if the margin is 20% or less, fundamental to profitability. What’s more they represent a key revenue diversification in cyclical ad market downturns, that enable titles to stay in business and wait for the upturn. As this fallacy is a foundation of the ad-funded content model it’s vital that it’s accurate and supported by evidence. Secondly, there is not just a cyclical problem with the ad model – i.e. downturns – there’s a structural problem. There are too few ad dollars chasing a potentially limitless amount of ad inventory. As the supply outstrips the demand, advertising yield continues to be pressured downward. These are basic faults with the model one would expect an analyst or self-styled consultant to address.


Access to content and the real content – Dont see a lot of distinction between the two. I buy newspaper (access) to read content (news). Ultimately i do it for the content. Print media is collapsing coz the content is freely available on the net and at lightning speed. Lets take the example of this very website – contentSutra. All the content is freely available on the contentsutra. If CS decides to charge visitors for accessing content or they devise a widget/gadget etc – i m sure CS would witness a sudden and rapid plunge in the subscriber base. Terry has correctly mentioned that future is in advertising revenue and less from subscription. However its the brand custodian who needs to be educated on the benefits of advertising on contentsutra. Websites like CS fail to fathom this fact and simply feel that since cs is well establised brand in the offline mode they could get traction in the online world. Access to content and Content – If i were to really debate this with James, id rather ask for a solution. How do i add more paid access points on the net?

Ted Carroll

Thanks Palmer. Please add to my resume “experienced” and “able to spot sophistry at any distance.” I hope Forrester puts this thesis out widely.

Terry Purvis

palmer brown said: “What so many print types are having a difficult time understanding is that the future (existence) is in advertising, not subscription.”

100% right.


Ted, you forgot to add arrogant and close-minded to your resume. Your professional history is certainly remarkable. Given that history, your comments towards the author and your response to me is disappointing.


Its fact that people is still paying for content either buying news paper, ringtones,wallpapers,videos, animations and graphics etc. Always you’ve to pay for content.
(sms gateway and mobile marketing solution sprovider)
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Ted Carroll

Palmer I’ve owned TV stations, cable TV systems, newspapers, consumer and business to business magazines, book publishers, digital publishers and other information and media properties. I am well aware of what advertising pays for and what subscription dollars pay for. So with this for your edification I repeat, the author’s thesis here is complete crap.


How true – it did not want to listen to such content but merely have access to it.
Esp poor quality content. Might that have something to do with ? Nah


Ted… relax… breathe…

You apparently missed his point. He did not “spin history”. James is completely accurate of his assessment and his proposed opportunity is interesting.

From your own comment, “Did he ever buy a newspaper, or magazine? Did a portion of those monies then help pay a journalist’s salary?”

Did you ever watch TV? Did you pay? Maybe for cable or satellite (access). Even if it was over the air with bunny ears the journalists salaries were paid the same way, by advertising.

Like TV, print journalists salaries are NOT paid by the subscription fee or news stand price but by the advertising within the paper. Circulation revenue offsets print and distribution, it doesn’t pay journalists salaries.

What so many print types are having a difficult time understanding is that the future (existence) is in advertising, not subscription. The national/global news space is too crowded with too many resources to charge there. Scaling down to a local level, there just is not that much interest/value in “cat stuck in tree” or “area mom wins bake-off” stories to build an audience.

Ted Carroll

Complete crap. Another techno-consultant spins history. Did he ever buy a newspaper, or magazine? Did a portion of those monies then help pay a journalist’s salary? Did that journalist create “content” – or did Mr. McQuivey buy the paper just to read “access?”

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